The decision on which tent to buy was not a difficult one. Numerous touring cyclists have relied upon and recommended the Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT over the years, despite its exorbitant pricetag. No, the difficulty wasn’t in buying the Hilleberg, but rather in keeping it. Despite its featherweight material, the tent packs up quite large. And it definitely takes some practice in setting up. Our first experience with the tent, in a snowstorm mind you, was less than fun. Fortunately, we gave it some extra chances to prove its worth and we soon grew to love it–like one might in an arranged marriage. We purchased the tent’s footprint to go along with it, but drew the line at Hilleberg’s outrageous tarp pricing and opted for the Kelty Noah 12 (minus poles) instead, at half the price. It’s heavier, and may prove a bit awkward in shape, but we figure it could certainly come in handy during a spring crossing of the Cascade Mountains. If it doesn’t earn its keep by the end of April, we’ll send it packing.
Update! We opted to leave the Kelty Noah Tarp behind after completing our North American tour. We only used it once in 98 days, as the hassle of setting it up wasn’t worth the benefit given the Hilleberg’s massive vestibule. The tarp was also too heavy and unwieldy to bother carrying.
If opting for 29er disc–brake touring bikes wasn’t unorthodox enough, our sleeping system is sure to confound many a world traveler. Rather than purchase a bulky 15-degree sleeping bag as so many cycling tourists do, we decided to go for the 35F-degree down alpine comforters offered by Thermarest and pair them with a very warm +25F sleeping bag liner. The reasons are many, but ultimately boil down to four little words: I hate mummy bags. It is so enjoyable to be able to sleep on my side, kick my legs out, and generally sleep any way I want, as if at home in a bed. The pairing of the comforter and liner give us multiple options for varying temperatures and, together with the high R-rating of the Exped SynMat 7 and some silk long underwear, should keep us comfortable down to about 20F degrees. Any colder and we’ll find a hotel. Or sleep in our rain pants and softshell jackets.
Update! Our sleeping system is, in effect, only comfortable down to about 28F (-2C) degrees without having to sleep in raingear for warmth. We will need to take on an extra blanket for colder climates where we cannot retreat to a motel as easily as we did in Montana and North Dakota.
We’ve had a MSR Whisperlite International years ago (I still have some of its soot under my fingernails from a trip on the Appalachian Trail back in 1998) and have been enjoying a Primus canister stove for several years. We were leaning towards buying a Primus Omnifuel, but ultimately decided to go for a Trangia alcohol cookstove instead. The Trangia 25-8 UL/HA set is a bit large, but we found the 27-8 UL/HA to be too small for two hungry bicyclists after first purchasing that model. The kettle may be a bit overkill, but it enables us to ensure there’s no oily residue or odors from dinner seeping into the water for our morning coffee. Though we suspect we may have some trouble getting our hands on denatured alcohol in Central Asia, the ubiquitous presence of Heet in convenience stores and suitable fuels in hardware stores made this an attractive option, especially given the low price of the stove and cookset. In Canada, large 1L bottles of Methyl Hydrate worked very well and only cost $4.
For eating, we’ve been relying on the Fozzils Bowls for several years now and absolutely love them. They fold completely flat, are easy to wash, and weigh next to nothing. We’re bringing along our old pair as well as a set of the newer, grippier silicone-coated ones. Why are we’re bringing four plates and sporks, you ask? Just in case we get the chance to entertain. Naturally.
My favorite thing to do after eating dinner and setting up camp is to sit back and read a book and though I suspect they may get the old heave-ho before long, the Alite Monarch Butterfly chairs are both lightweight and comfortable. Best of all, they help prevent the soggy bottom that comes from sitting on the ground or soaked-through picnic tables. To round out our camping gear selection, we have a small “kitchen” sink from Sea to Summit and the larger Ortlieb folding box/bowl that is great for doing laundry and bathing.